One Percenters: How the Brumbies made a young fan's day

Super Rugby
by Beth Newman and Emma Greenwood

The Brumbies made their round six Super Rugby match a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a young boy named Christian and his family.

The club received a Facebook message during the week from a Canberra woman inquiring about wheelchair access for her son, Christian Franklin.

In the exchange, the team found out that Christian was suffering from leukaemia, undergoing treatment in a Sydney hospital, and eerily the same strain of the disease that former skipper Christian Lealiifano also battled in recent years.

Rather than just answer her query, the Brumbies organised for Christian to be immersed in their game day from start to finish.

He was involved in the coin toss and veteran prop Scott Sio presented him with a jersey pre-game in the sheds.

Lealiifano sent Christian a message as well, offering his support in a battle that few would truly identify with.

During the game, Christian and his parents sat next to the Brumbies bench, and each player that came off the field shook hands with the whole family as they exited play.

Afterward, Franklin was in the middle of the Brumbies team song, heartily belting out their victory tune.

Sio said he hoped that Franklin had enjoyed the day.

"It was really great to have Christian alongside us in Wollongong, he's a really special kid who's going through a tough time and hopefully we were able to put a smile on his face on Friday afternoon," he said.

Sunwolves praise influence of Nathan Grey

Nathan Grey is working with the Sunwolves. Photo: Getty ImagesSunwolves captain Jake Schatz has praised the influence of former Wallabies assistant Nathan Grey in camp this year.

Grey moved into a technical director role with the Sunwolves ahead of their final Super Rugby season, balancing that role with a Rugby Australia role.

The former Wallabies defence coach has been working with the Japanese outfit full-time and Schatz said he had already been an "asset" to the side.

"Greysy, he's an experienced player and coach and an asset to the team," he said.

"There's different levels of experience all through the team and I think any bit of extra advice and experience you get from anyone really, it helps.

"We've got guys coming straight out of university in Japan to guys that have never played Super Rugby before that just wanted an opportunity.

"The more we learn week to week, the better we'll get. Guys like Greysy and even guys like myself and other guys that have played lots of super Rugby, I think that helps."

Super Rugby unearthing younger talent in new era: Gatland

Warren Gatland is enjoying his time in Super Rugby. Photo: Getty ImagesWarren Gatland is back involved with Super Rugby for the first time in more than a decade and the former Wales coach says the competition is evolving.

With more players moving to Europe towards the middle and end of their careers, Gatland said the SouthernHemisphere competition was becoming more of a home for younger talent.

"When they get to 26, 27, (players are) looking at opportunities or later in their career and definitely the squad's are a lot younger than the northern hemisphere," he said.

"Technically there's some work to do from a lot of players but it's different and I'm excited about the skill level we've got to work with because that's probably the biggest difference.

"Technically, there's some areas where the Northern Hemisphere is very,very strong at. I

"It's been good for me learning and seeing what these guys do and just giving a different perspective on things I've done and worked with and things that have worked for teams that I've been involved with whether it's been Wales or the Lions or things that I've learned from the Northern Hemisphere.

"It's nice to be in and because I'm learning from these guys all the time and hopefully I'm adding a little bit from things and we'll keep building nicely.

Gatland also sounded an ominous warning about the potential of his team, which has stamped itself as a title contender already this season.

"I think this Chiefs team's going to be a great side, maybe not this year, but the next couple of years it's going to be an absolutely outstanding side and we feel like we're in a really good position to be successful the next three or four years."

Brumbies captain backs Slipper re-signing

Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa says James Slipper has been an asset to the Brumbies. Photo: Getty ImagesBrumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa has thrown his support behind the Canberra club's bid to re-sign Wallabies prop James Slipper.

Slipper found himself on the outer with Reds coach Brad Thorn after twice testing positive for cocaine in 2018 and was released from his Queensland contract, finding a new home at the Brumbies last year.

His two-year-deal expires at the end of this season and the veteran front-rower and the Brumbies are keen to do a deal that will keep him in the capital - something front-row partner Alaalatoa supports.

"Slips has obviously been around for a while and has a lot of experience in both the Wallabies and the Brumbies and I think with the group we have, everyone leans towards his leadership," Alaalatoa said.

"If he was thinking of staying for another couple of years, I think the club would benefit from someone like him."

Board picture to become clearer on Monday

The future makeup of the Rugby Australia board will begin to look a lot clearer on Monday when nominees for vacant positions are publicly released.

All nominations had to be submitted by March 9 ahead of the March 30 AGM.

At that meeting, three vacant board positions will be filled and a successor to short-term chairman Paul McLean will be earmarked to take over in the coming months.

Sydney Uni stalwart David Mortimer has been linked to the chairmanship among a number of names.

Mitchell throws herself into Reds' efforts against Tahs

Reds hooker Averyl Mitchell made a clutch play to help Queensland win possession at the start of the second half of their Super W clash against the Waratahs on Saturday.

But she had already made the play of the day running out of the tunnel to start the second period.

Trotting out behind Reds captain Lori Cramer, Mitchell tripped and completed a Ben Tune try-scoring impersonation with a swan dive on to the Ballymore turf.

The Wallaroo popped up as quickly as she went down though and gave a quick wave to the crowd to signal she was okay before readying for the second half.

McLachlan makes Six Nations debut

Amber McLachlan (right) officiated the England-Wales Twickenham clash. Photo: Getty ImagesAustralian referee Amber McLachlan marked another milestone in her career, officiating the weekend's England-Wales women's Six nations match.

McLachlan is one of Australia's rising female referees and made her tournament debut in the match played overnight.

The Victorian official will also be in the France-Ireland match to be played on Sunday March 16 (AEDT). 

Gomeroi Goannas claim maiden Ella 7s title

The Gomeroi Goannas took out their maiden Ella 7s titla this weekend in the first tournament in Dubbo.

In previous years the tournament has been held in Coffs Harbour but this year the competition shifted to the central west for the first time.

The Goannas beat out La Perouse in a thrilling tournament final, stealing the win in the final seconds.

The Ella 7s is an Indigenous rugby tournament that has unearthed some special talent in recent years and is run by the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Program.

Horan's nostalgic throwback

There's nothing like a family photo to show how times are changing, just ask Tim Horan.

Horan's son Alex made his Super Rugby debut for the Sunwolves last weekend and his maiden outing commanded attention.

The youngster's debut prompted Horan senior to post a tweet during the week, featuring a todder Alex in his arm's after the Wallabies' 1999 Rugby World Cup win.

Next to that was a photo of Tim and Alex together after Alex's Super Rugby debut, captioned "How time flies, 199 v 2020". 

How time flies indeed.